BEFORE you tap its pointy shell and make a small crack to sip the broth, make sure you have a pinch of salt and spicy vinegar before you make the “final attack.”
I’m talking about the “balut,” a famous delicacy in the Philippines that would send a lot of people from other parts of the world scurrying away in disgust.
Balut, which is sold in streets in the Philippines, is fertilized duck egg cooked and served in its shell.
I’ve tried asking several people here, non-Filipinos, if they’ve tried eating balut and I’ve received various violent reactions ranging from “yuck” and “ewww” with matching shuddering and absolute distaste on their faces.
Andres Zimmern of the Travel Channel featured balut on his show “Bizarre Foods,” so did Anthony Bourdain on “No Reservations.”
Cracking a balut and eating it in front of people who haven’t tried it is in itself something of an experience.
After not seeing any balut for over three years, I learned that there’s a store that sells it on Saipan — the grocery beside Elegance Restaurant in Garapan.
It costs $1.50 each. I bought three and took it home one time. As it came from the cooler, I had to heat it for a few minutes before finally laying them on the table and staring at them as though I’d forgotten how to eat balut.
Picking up one, I tapped the pointy tip of the egg’s shell and made an opening large enough to pinch the sac covering the top. I then poured a generous amount of salt and spicy vinegar before tipping it up for the broth to trickle into my mouth. After the broth was drained, I cracked the shell slowly, pouring more salt and vinegar as I spooned the yolk and took dainty bites. (Yes, spooned. I wouldn’t eat it otherwise)
When I got down to the last bit of yolk, I stopped and dropped the balut. Before me was the duck fetus — complete with head, eyes, bill, little wings, and some feathers. I’ve never learned to eat the fetus, and I think I never will.
Some people eat the duck fetus in two or even one bite but a lot of them will not look at it.
When you can finally focus on the taste and forget the terror, eating balut will no longer be that daunting. Here’s a tip from balut lovers — don’t look at it.
Balut is also believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered to be a high-protein snack. Try it if you haven’t yet.